Assertiveness - How to Be Assertive
Definition of Assertiveness
A person who is assertive can be described as someone who:
- Expresses their views clearly and articulately without being aggressive
- Stands up for their own and other people's rights in a reasonable and clear way
- Allows other people a reasonable opportunity to express their opinions without allowing them to dominate a conversation
One might also add a further more subtle element to the definition of assertiveness:
- Having the courage to express one's own feelings, even about difficult issues, in a way which is respectful and honest.
Understanding three different types of behaviour - Passive, Aggressive and Assertive - helps to clarify what assertiveness involves:
Three Basic Types of Behaviour
1. Passive Behaviour
Passive behaviour is a type of behaviour which is characteristic of someone seeking above all to avoid conflict. If this is a form of behaviour which you show then it is likely that whatever your own feelings you may allow others to make choices and take advantage of you.
2. Aggressive Behaviour
Aggressive behaviour is the opposite of passive behaviour. Someone who acts aggressively will express their own needs and wants freely but often without thought for the feelings of others and sometimes in a loud or intimidating manner.
3. Assertive Behaviour
As can be seen from the above definition of "Assertive", Assertive behaviour involves acting in a way which is neither Passive nor Aggressive but a happy medium between the two. If you can act assertively you will express your own needs, wants and feelings, but in a manner which is constructive and which allows others the opportunity to express their own.
Why is it Important to Be Assertive?
If you behave in a passive manner all or most of the time, then it is likely that your own needs, feelings and wants will go unmet, unfulfilled and unrecognised. On the other hand if you behave in an aggressive manner it is unlikely that you will participate in relationships which are genuinely fulfilling and involve genuine communication and respect.
In summary, it is important to try to behave assertively in order to:
- Meet and express your own needs
- Respect and communicate with others effectively
- Engage in fulfilling relationships.
If you are behaving in passive or aggressive ways and would like to become more assertive, what can be helpful to you is to start to identify the thought patterns that are underpinning your non-assertive behaviour and to find effective ways of challenging or overcoming them.
For example, some common thoughts or beliefs underpinning passive behaviour are:
- The thought that if you express a viewpoint that the other person does not like they will become upset
- The thought that if you express your own feelings and needs you may be being selfish
- The thought that you don't deserve to have your needs met.
If these are thoughts with which you can identify then it is likely that you experience low self esteem and will benefit from information or coaching to help you improve your self esteem and deal with the negative thought patterns which contribute to your lack of assertiveness and your lack of confidence or self belief.
Some initial suggestions which may help you to be more assertive are:
1. Think of positive statements that you can say to yourself ("Positive Self Talk") to encourage you to take a chance and express your needs in a reasonable manner.
2. Draw up a list of what the potential advantages for you and your relationships could be if you can start being more assertive in your behaviour. Use this as a motivational tool when you are trying to muster the courage to express yourself in a more assertive way.
3. Set yourself realistic specific targets - Don't expect that you will become completely assertive overnight. Initially just set yourself one or two specific aims for what you want to communicate in a particular situation and how you might go about doing it.
4. Congratulate yourself for any successes you have in behaving a little more assertively, however small, and try to build on them.
5. Don't put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Just do your best and seek support if appropriate.
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